Does Boris Johnson pose a threat for Conservative leadership?

19 Sep 2012


The past few months have been a whirlwind for Boris Johnson. After winning a closer than anticipated Mayoral election (only 60,000 votes clear) the name Boris Johnson has been thrust into the limelight with the aged headline title; “Will Boris be the next Tory Leader?” The general public love him. Chants of “Boris! Boris!” were called at his speech for the torch relay coming to a close in Hyde Park, but what is it about Boris that the public love?


My personal opinion is that he is the most personable politician in the country. Can you imagine Cameron, Miliband or Livingstone welcoming crowds in Victoria Park via a zip wire? The fact that he got stuck on the zip wire was hilarious no doubt but not, because he was a laughing stock, but because he was the only politician brave enough to make a fool out of himself. Many may argue that he plays an act in order to gain public recognition and stand apart from his peers, but after working on his campaign and meeting the man himself, I can confirm that this is not a facade, he is just incredibly genuine and charismatic. 

He is not afraid to stand up for the interests of Londoners as Mayor, and, of the Country as a political figurehead. Knocking away comments made by Mitt Romney that London was not ready to host the Olympics, and making a gaffe about bailing out Greece with an accumulation of gold, silver and bronze GB medals are just two examples of this. 

I am not the only self confessed Johnson fan. A poll by YouGov undertaken last week offered a list of eight leadership qualities and asked for each person to consider which quality they associated with each leader; Cameron, Miliband, Clegg and Johnson. Results showed that Johnson topped each leadership quality, a result even YouGov failed to fathom. Qualities such as being charismatic and honest were perhaps easier to establish. However, other characteristics, such as being good in a crisis and in touch with the concerns of ordinary people were more surprising. I believe that the public want a leader they can trust and who will show initiative whilst understanding their needs and upholding national interests.  I believe that Boris possesses all of the above. 

Without getting ahead of ourselves it is important to mention that Boris is not, as of yet, a Member of Parliament. This is a hurdle he will need to jump if he were to undertake the coveted position as Leader of the Party. However, after confirming that talks with Zac Goldsmith did occur, speculation is rife that Goldsmith would not be against standing down from his safe seat in Richmond Park if the Government do end up U-turning over their promise not to expand Heathrow with a third runway until 2015. Issues such as Heathrow and HS2 have divided the Tory Party. Boris himself has reiterated his position against a third runway and has been at loggerheads with Cameron over the issue, calling instead for a new runway to be built within a Thames estuary dubbed “Boris Island” in the press and at the firing of Justine Greening a fellow anti-Heathrow expansionist in the recent Governmental re-shuffle. 

However, it is important not to forget that Boris has been an MP before thus proving that he does have the requisite experience to undertake such a position again. He proved popular as the representative for Henley-Upon-Thames, but, his popularity within the party began to wane when in 2004 it was reported that he lied to Michael Howard, the Leader of the Party at the time about an extramarital affair with journalist Petronella Wyatt. Many critics within the Party believe that such a past indiscretion will not fit the persona as the head of a Party that promotes strong family ties. However this is hard to dispute when the current Prime Minister accidentally left his daughter in a pub after a Sunday afternoon drink. Such indiscretions need not affect the ability for the individual to do their job.  

I am a strong advocate for David Cameron. I voted for the Party in the 2010 General Election and I believe he is a strong leader. I believe that the radical adjustments to the welfare state such as reducing benefit claims were drastically needed, and I applaud the Government for removing several layers of bureaucratic management that alienated patient care in the Health and Social Care Bill. However, I do not believe that as a country we are in as stable a position that we should be in following the 2007-2008 financial crisis, and, I believe stronger negotiations with Europe are pivotal to increase our interests in the region. 

A few years ago, Boris Johnson may not have been seen as a prime candidate for the Leadership position. Nadine Dorries herself was a disbeliever, commenting for Conservative Home at the weekend that she was in disbelief when a colleague suggested Boris as a potential successor. However, no one can dispute that London has undergone a makeover since taking back City Hall from Ken Livingstone in 2008. The streets have become safer with more police roaming the streets, the introduction of Boris bikes and the Emirates Airline have identified new commuting alternatives to the Tube and buses and he has cut waste at City Hall. Boris has yet to confirm reports that he is thinking of returning to Parliament, promising to continue his second term as Mayor until 2016. However, I do think that it is possible for him to juggle his duties as Mayor and MP for a year. I believe that the role of London Mayor is not an audition for Party Leader, but is more of a stepping stone on a journey to the top. Boris may have to overcome the criticisms against him from members of his own Party, but if public opinion is anything to go by Boris Mania will only continue until he is Party Leader.   

By Victoria Watt-Smith

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